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by Lillian Mahaney
Have you wanted to become involved in gardening with children, however, you just didn’t know where to start? There are many ways that you can garden with children and many opportunities in our region.
If you missed the March “Let’s Get Growing” meeting we had a presentation on youth gardening. Lianna Bowman, FoodCorps volunteer, gave a wonderful presentation on the projects sponsored by FoodCorps, Farm to School and Michigan Land Use Institute. There are schools gardens popping up all over Northwest Michigan and many opportunities for volunteering. Volunteer opportunities range from helping with the school garden, classroom lessons and working with students to more of the “behind the scenes” work of garden preparation and maintenance.
Connor Miller also presented on the behalf of the Grand Traverse Stewardship Initiative providing information on opportunities to get involved in native plant gardens at a number of schools including Children’s House Montessori, Grand Traverse Academy, Mill Creek Elementary and TCAPS Montessori. Kristina Weidenfeller, a teacher from Children’s House Montessori, was in the audience and gave everyone information on their native plant garden.
My part of the presentation revolved around the Jr. Master Gardener program and simple (but fun) ways to teach children about gardening. Some of the fun activities include seed starting, taking pothos cuttings and watching them grow, going outside to watch the daffodils start to emerge and even dancing along to the Banana Slug String Band’s Water Cycle Boogie.
I was a presenter recently to the volunteers and prospective volunteers at the Grand Traverse Children’s Garden. The garden is always looking for mentors and volunteers to work with the children and adults, particularly with the Learning Gardens.
Your commitment to any of the youth gardening opportunities can be done by taking baby steps or by leaping. You can learn to teach the Jr. Master Gardener program of 8 weeks, teach one or two classes, show a pre-school class how to dance the Water Cycle Boogie or show children vegetables and fruits that they may never have eaten. The wonderful carambola (star fruit) is always a big hit. You can work individually or in pairs or groups.
If you have any questions on how to become involved please let me know. The easiest way to reach me is normally by email (email@example.com), however, a telephone call is just fine also (231)-256-8844. I know that once you start working with children you will have so much fun you will hardly be able to wait until you can start another project.
by Nancy Denison
First of all, it was a treat having four speakers to choose from for this meeting and it seemed to bring in a lot of people! I attended the sessions on Invasive Species with Katie Grzesiak and Landscape Design with Brian Zimmerman.
Katie has so much information to share that her enthusiasm and knowledge of her topic is catchy. Insects, plants, butterflies, birds, trees, fish are interwoven and we need to be alert for early detection and removal of invasive/non-native growth. I never knew Elm trees support 213 species of moths and butterflies or that the Pitcher Thistle only grow on dunes because they love the shifting sands. Thanks so much, Katie for sharing this valuable information with us!
Brian Zimmerman had some useful ideas for pre-planning your yard/garden design. He suggests walking through nurseries to get ideas of plants, sizes, colors, and shapes that you like and may work for the space. Dimensions and budget are good to know as well as exterior features that exist or that you may desire to add. Then drawing up a plan with a landscape designer will put those ideas on paper and hopefully, a design that grows to perfection. I like the fact that when a home has well thought out landscape design, the home’s value can be increased by 12-15%. I only wish I would have known some of these ideas years ago! Thanks, Brian!
by Lillian Mahaney
At the March “Let’s Get Growing” meeting I attended Greg Hart’s presentation “Cultivating Your Eden”. Greg is a member of SEEDS, which is a non-profit organization established to foster local solutions to global issues. SEEDS brings a holistic perspective, making connections between ecology and social justice. SEEDS provides after-school educational programming in numerous middle and high schools in the Grand Traverse region.
After explaining about SEEDS Greg showed a video of a family in Los Angeles. The family had only a 1/10th acre lot and still were able to grow over 400 species of plants, 4,300 pounds of vegetable food, raise chickens and ducks to obtain over 900 chicken eggs and 1,000 duck eggs, 25 pounds of honey and seasonal fruits in one year. The family utilized vertical gardening concepts and made use of pretty much every inch of space. Local chefs came to the tiny farm to buy eggs, honey, vegetables and fruit. It was truly mind-boggling what could be done in such a small space with a little determination and ingenuity.
by Nancy Denison
Ahhh…to compost or not to compost…that is never the question for Mike. He is in it all the way and happily, he shared his expertise with us at the April MG meeting.
According to Mike, the U.S. spends forty-five billions dollars a year on lawn care. Our landfills are filling up and emit more Methane gas than Carbon Dioxide. Composting is incredibly easy, reduces landfills, pollution, hauling costs, and fertilizer use, among other benefits.
Start with leftover kitchen scraps; eggshells, coffee grounds, veggie peelings, for example. Add grass clippings, leaves, sawdust, newspaper, some cow or chicken manure, and water. Don’t forget the Red Wigglers! In a few months you will have useable compost for your garden. A simple pile you can turn over with a shovel or pitchfork works just fine for your compost, or you can create one by recycling wood pallets or chicken wire or purchase a rotating bin which you can empty into a bucket or wheelbarrow.
Additionally, Mike’s slides showed us lots of ideas and facts that should get just about anyone ready to dig in, and get started with a compost project of their own. We appreciate you sharing with us, Mike!
Following are some recommended readings Mike mentioned in his talk:
- Eliot Coleman, Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Co, 1999 (2nd edition). (website)
- Robert Kourik, Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally and Easy Composting. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing Co, VT, 1995. (Amazon purchasing link)
- Lee Reich, Weedless Gardening. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company Inc, 2001. (website)
- You can also read Mike’s blog at foodgardensnorth.blogspot.com